Collected Wisps of Thought

{October 2, 2006}   Mourning

Sometimes it seems like beautiful fall days should come with a warning.

I went out to the gym today and on my drive there, along the Delaware river, past scenic overlooks and around winding curves, I was mesmerized by a “perfect” fall day. The temperature was just right, the leaves are turning colors, and the sky was amazingly blue. It was the kind of day that makes you feel good about life, like maybe this world we live in isn’t so fucked up after all.

But someone else, on this same day decided to walk into an Amish school house and shoot innocent little girls execution style.

You know what? Maybe it is…

As I’ve discussed on many occasions, I used to work with Mennonite Central Committee. MCC headquarters are located down in the Lancaster, PA area and I remember my time spent there very fondly. Mennonites are closely related to the Amish, preferring to live simply, eskewing material posessions and the worldly values of modern life. They are good people. People who reach out to others.

When I got married, I wanted to share some small piece of my MCC experience with my husband. The two of us took a trip down to the Material Resources Center where the Mennonites and Amish collect vast quantities of food, clothing, shoes, blankets and quilts, as well as many other items that get shipped to people in need around the world. 

What’s the Material Resource Center like? It’s huge. There’s a sewing room where Amish and Mennonite women make the most amazing quilts which then get auctioned off to raise money. There’s a little old man who takes the blue jeans you or I might throw away and cuts them into strips that get woven together into floor mats. The mats are beautiful creations — so many shades of blue. These too get sold to raise money for people in need. While we were there, my husband and I met a man from India who now works at the resource center and tells the story of receiving his first pair of shoes from MCC as an adolescent. A team of older men take shoes that are old and worn and scrub them with toothbrushes until they look new. There’s a warehouse stacked from floor to ceiling with crates of necessities ready to be shipped as soon as the next war, earthquake, flood or emergency hits.

When my husband and I visited we worked in several different areas, mostly sorting shoes and clothing. One day, an Amish school was visiting. I will always remember the row of little straw hats and shawls hanging on the pegs on the wall. The kids were there with several adults putting together school kits. They were rambunctious, laughing and running around like any kids. But they were also helping — being taught from the time they were small what it means to reach out to others.

Today, I mourn the Amish children who were killed by a senseless act of violence. Killed by someone who was not taught how to see through another’s eyes and feel compassion. Someone who didn’t learn what it means to do something good in this world. A person whose value system was non-existent.

I don’t know what this man’s motives were, but I know that no motives would ever be reasonable.

I don’t know if this man was insane, but his actions in terms of premeditation of the event imply that he had the ability to think things through and he made a choice. A choice to place his own needs above the lives of others.

I don’t know what we need to do to create human beings who DO know how to empathize and CAN make moral, humane decisions, but I know that we need to.

It’s time for beautiful fall days to be trustworthy again.

Ryan says:

It’s especially sad that this horrible event came crashing through the schoolhouse doors of a people who have done everything they could to remove themselves from the dangers and ills of our modern society. It reminded me of the Henry Reed poem “Naming of Parts” – the Amish have managed to hold onto a simple lifestyle and maintain their “silent and eloquent gestures” while we carry on with our naming of parts.

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